SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
August 31, 2008

Opportunities missed in preparing for Gustav

Posted: 03:22 PM ET

If there were a Nobel Prize for “I told you so” it might go to Louisiana State University Professor Ivor van Heerden. He warned of the catastrophic consequences a major hurricane would have on New Orleans long before Hurricane Katrina.

LSU Professor Ivor Van Heerden foretold Katrina's damage.  Now he's pointing out missed opportunities to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

LSU Professor Ivor Van Heerden foretold Katrina

And as Hurricane Gustav approaches, he says there were many lost opportunities to strengthen the region’s defenses in the three years since Katrina and Rita.

Among them:
*state and federal officials could have done a lot more to assess the weak links in the levee system, from New Orleans to Morgan City, Louisiana.
*more of an effort should have been made to repair damaged areas on levees. In many places, he said, there is bare soil, no grass at all on the levees.
*both before and after Katrina, he said the Army Corps of Engineers has not allowed enough outside experts to work with them to make improvements

But perhaps the greatest neglect has been restoration of the wetlands off the Louisiana coast. It’s estimated that the cypress swamps and barrier islands are disappearing at the rate of a football field every half hour.

“For 14 years we’ve been trying to get the state to start a more large scale effort to rebuild the barrier islands,” said van Heerden.

These islands act as speed bumps with an approaching storm.

“If the existing barrier islands were a little higher and wider, it could knock two to three feet off the storm surge. It would have been about a $200 million dollar project, it could have been finished by now,” he said.

While coastal authorities in Louisiana did complete some restoration projects, van Heerden said bureaucratic snags kept many others from ever being started: everything from a limit of what companies could dredge in the Gulf, to the cutting and selling of cypress trees for garden mulch.

“This storm has the potential of being a huge economic blow to Louisiana, the United States and it will be felt internationally,” said van Heerden.

He predicted the price of gasoline could go through the roof because of the enormous oil and natural gas interests in the Gulf of Mexico.

But he said the human toll would be greater.

“Who is going to suffer? Not the decision-makers. It is the poor Louisianans. If the [weather] models are correct, Gustav will destroy what Katrina and Rita did not. This is going to be flooding of a much larger area than Katrina,” said van Heerden.

Marsha Walton Science and Technology Producer in New Orleans

Filed under: environment • Flooding • hurricanes • Severe weather • Weather

Share this on:
candyadderley   August 31st, 2008 3:48 pm ET

wow, what an opener...ehhe..
i enjoyed it

S Callahan   August 31st, 2008 5:07 pm ET

He is right. Why the Government did not listen to him is beyond me, and why politics values the dollar in their pocket over the well being of a human life is just unforgiveable. One should always remember a rich mans riches can disappear in a second should God allow. Prof. Ivan van Heerden again said his concerns three years ago and yet no one listened (reminds me how people failed to listen to God, and still do ).
Perhaps the citizens need to regroup and take back their goverment and put it in the hands of those that can be trusted for the care of the well being of it's land and citizens. Its'a bold statement but one wonders how long can this go on.

Franko   August 31st, 2008 5:53 pm ET

Congratulations to CNN, expertise to counteract the political Faith Healers.

Tidal surge of a near miss, worse than a direct hit ?
I am googling this, but, anyone has good explaining link and simulations ?

Franko   August 31st, 2008 7:02 pm ET

Gustav track
Katrina track
Hanna, just cannot make up her mind. Hopefully, not Gustav groupie next.

S Callahan   August 31st, 2008 9:57 pm ET

Thanks again should be working for CNN weather...:-)
I wonder if Hanna ( following closely behind Gustav) will create destructive waves towards Florida...or even worse detour and go the path of Gustav.... I think Sept. is going to be one interesting month of storms.

Marshall   August 31st, 2008 10:38 pm ET

Well as far as I know the northeastt portion of a hurricane is generally the worst. Considering that most forcasts have Gustav coming in southwest of New Orleans it can only be surmised that they will get hit by the brunt of the storm.

Quite a shame that more wasn't done to speed up the process of protecting this area.

Observer   August 31st, 2008 10:45 pm ET

Unfortunately, investments in infrastructure are not a priority in Washington. Think of all the great improvements that could have been made to ailing levees, dikes, dams, bridges, roads and the power grid, instead of going for the war in Iraq. Our infrastructure just continues to crumble....

Paul Algu   August 31st, 2008 10:53 pm ET

I heard professor van Heerden speak at the LSU Honors College and now his message about the levees is crystal clear. I became an environmental science major at LSU to fix this problem and the biggest problems we face are naysayers and public apathy. It's too bad this storm has to be the wake up call.

George - Branson, MO   August 31st, 2008 10:55 pm ET

If it takes and "act of God" to get a Democrat into the White House, then I say "so be it!!!" Enough is enough! What's $200 Million compared to the $10 Billion A MONTH we're flushing down the toilet every month for the Bush-Cheney illegal war??? At least Obama will have the sense to listen to a scholar, like Van Heerden, who knows what he's talking about.

Heavy D   August 31st, 2008 10:56 pm ET

The barrier islands and the wetlands are really the part that is missing in terms of laypeople understanding this. Restoring the aforementioned will protect lives and property, help protect our fisheries, and dampen the "deadspots" many of us read about. Good for America, the country, and the Earth. It is an investment that pays off.

David K   August 31st, 2008 11:05 pm ET

Let me see, who foretold the dangers that a hurricane like Katrina could hold for a city 14 feet below sea level? This guy and a hundred others over the last 30 years. This guy is nothing special and the news is old news. And when you look at why things have moved so slowly in the recovery effort over the last three years the finger point specifically at the State and Local level. OMG they even re-elected Nagin as their mayor. If the town floods again tough, build on higher ground.

James - Sunnyvale, CA   August 31st, 2008 11:12 pm ET

S Callahan: It's not God who's being ignored, but scientists. For decades the conservatives (in particular, the Republicans, and to an extreme degree, the Reagan and Bush administrations) have systematically attacked science.

Seatbelts? That would put GM out of business!
Fossil fuel running out? OMG, WE NEED TO DRILL FASTER
Global warming? That's a myth.
Evolution? A bunch of hoo-haw.
Stem cell research? Can't go there...
Hurricanes? Who could have predicted that?
ad nauseum...

The net effect: one disaster after another that could have been avoided, and government officials saying "No one could have predicted this."

I'm really, really, really tired of people dying because no one will listen to those who spend their lives trying to give us the knowledge to avoid these tragedies.

Jesse   August 31st, 2008 11:12 pm ET

This article was excellent.

Why don't we get more expert opinions in the news, rather that preachers, pundits, and special interests?

Henry Miller, Cary, NC   August 31st, 2008 11:16 pm ET

"...state and federal officials could have done a lot more to assess the weak links in the levee system, from New Orleans to Morgan City, Louisiana."

Why should the financial burden of hurricane-proofing New Orleans be assumed by anyone other than the city of New Orleans and those who live there? No government offered to reimburse me the cost of hauling away the sixty-foot-tall pine tree that fell across my yard after Hurricane Fran in 1996.

Sigmund Freud once said "America is a mistake, a giant mistake!" Whether that's true of America is moot, but it's certainly true of New Orleans. Putting a city in a place that's below sea level at the best of times and on top of that is right in the path of a lot of hurricanes is not a mistake we should be forced to pay to perpetuate.

Franko   August 31st, 2008 11:20 pm ET

Luck that Gustav is 18 Miles/hour. Not slurping every calorie of Gulf heat.
Hanna likes it nice and slow.. Every calorie added, rain reducing overhead

"reminds me how people failed to listen to God, and still do"
God verment, a vermit or best described by Heidi Fleiss ?

S Callahan   August 31st, 2008 11:23 pm ET

Curious question, How do these two storms (included Hanna) this week;several earthquakes in China this week, and flooding this week in India tie into the haldron conductor? Does it?

ncarnes   August 31st, 2008 11:25 pm ET

Re: Observer – Its actually not the federal governments job to provide these resources until requested by the state. Gov. Jindal has done a great job taking over for the democrat who did very little to prepare her state for Katrina as well as Nagen with preparing his city. We all remember the pictures of the unused buses to get people out, we all remember how they told the federal government that they did not need assistance at the beginning. This story is a great way to downplay the differences in Katrina's response and Gustav, because now the Governor is a Republican and the response has been a complete 360 from Katrina.

By the way it was the former democrat governor who did nothing to protect and build up these areas, I wonder why that was not pointed out by this liberal professor? Hmm.

chris   August 31st, 2008 11:32 pm ET

i guess we should all blame the spanish and the french for not listening to the indians when they said this area floods all the time. them bastards. instead of looking to the past and assigning blame why cant we move on. by the way i am sick an tired of people, not just politicians, but people in general of politicizing everything. i am tempted to vote for some nonexistent entity because they would do a better job than either mccain or obama even in absentia.

Mark   August 31st, 2008 11:37 pm ET

Before all these scientists came up with their brilliant plan that the Government knew of all these events happening, and science got involved, and people like James in Sunnyvale CA started stating their opinion about the Governemt is to Blame for Hurricanes, what about those people who chose to build and reside in a Hurricane laden area. I mean, They knew the History, Hell Camille tore thru the Guld Coast in the 60's how many other severe Hurricanes rolled thru prior to that. It's funny because even with Katrina everyone blames the Federal Government. But yet why didn't the City of N.O. or even the state of Louisiana open Buss services, like they did this time for Gustav, OMG, probably because of the most appalling picture I saw of Katrina, was all the School Buses parked. That is a resource that the city could have used. I blame the people in N.O. for the debacle of Katrina, their City and State Government, not the Fed. This time around at least have their act together, lesson learned

Jason H   August 31st, 2008 11:38 pm ET

Whatever happens, I think the argument as to whether or not we should be rebuilding New Orleans is over now.

Franko   August 31st, 2008 11:50 pm ET

Al Gore identified the Tipping Point Concept. At the precipice of a cliff, a butterfly lands on a boulder. Catastrophe, shoot all butterfies. Save US from Chaos Gore.

Tides caused by Jupiter on the Sun, correlated with climate.
Spurious correlation, or switch, actual link identified ?
All things the same, we could try to mathematically regress.
However, cannot hold universe still, multiple correlations, predictably blow up.

Shiva is hiding the next Doom from US ?

Henry Miller, Cary, NC   August 31st, 2008 11:51 pm ET

To James of Sunnyvale:


"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." If it gives you warm fuzzies to wear a seatbelt, religious use of which from from birth on will increase an average 75-year lifespan by a whole six weeks, go for it. But enlisting government to punish people who prefer liberty to safety is reprehensible.

Fossil fuel running out? OMG, WE NEED TO DRILL FASTER

Yeah, among other things, like look real hard for alternatives. But this "the world will end if we drill a few holes in Alaska" foolishness is just that.

Global warming? That’s a myth.

But what's causing it? Sure, the eco-Nazis love to shriek about how it's all caused by those bad, bad, SUVs and those selfish, greedy (nasty rich) people who drive them, but there's about as much proof of that as there is of Elvis sightings and UFOs.

Evolution and stem cell research?

There are lots of different kinds of fanaticism in the world. Eco-Nazis exhibit one kind, safety Nazis another, and neo-con religious fanaticism yet a third. What all varieties of fanaticism have in common is the need to force their fanaticisms–whether it's the nearly statistically pointless one of fastening seatbelts, or the taken-on-faith one that people are responsible for global warming, or that there's some Big Daddy god who created the human race and has something against various kinds of research–on everyone else. All fanaticisms reflect an arrogant contempt for everyone who doesn't share them.

tom Jones   August 31st, 2008 11:52 pm ET

S Callahan,

Do you mean the Large Hadron Collider? Are you seriously suggesting it is having that type of effect?

Joe - Quincy, IL   August 31st, 2008 11:54 pm ET

Another Inconvenient Truth.

Jose   August 31st, 2008 11:56 pm ET

Articles like this and the comments made about them give me a great understanding of why our country is in the state it is in.

Think about it for a second. Someone warned about natural disasters and how to prevent the damage. For EVERY natural disaster there is some individual who has warned about the possibility and given loads of advice on how to fix it. All it takes is a little google search or scholarly journal search to turn it up. Then you print the article saying someone missed the boat and you have a great attention grabbing article.

Lets try this out. I'm doing this real time. Uh...something unlikely...Flooding in Arizona because of climate change...and here's an article from the EPA, a nice pdf detailing what would happen with animal life, trees, human resources and health. Wow, now if there is a flood in arizona we can blame it on industry and people driving SUVs. That was fun.

Think critically about what you read before pointing fingers. Please.

Mary   August 31st, 2008 11:59 pm ET

This guy might be a professor, but apparently not of geology.
The earth and nature always win.
The way to save people is not to keep building worthless levees and wasting time and money replenishing barrier islands and land that the ocean will quickly destroy.
The key is to accept the power of nature. We can't fight it, we must simply choose safer places to live that aren't under sea level!

Anyone who's taken a college (or even high school) level geology class learns about the foolishness of dams, levees and beach replenishment. In the long run, these silly attempts to fight the gigantic ocean only cause more damage.

Jose   September 1st, 2008 12:01 am ET

and lets be honest, like David K said above me, it's not exactly unlikely that a city 14 feet below sea level would have serious problems if a hurricane hit. And, it's on the gulf coast of the united states, gee, yeah, that area will never get hit by a hurricane...oh wait.

Energyguy   September 1st, 2008 12:03 am ET

Franko, re near miss. This refers to where the eye passes. The storm surge can be slightly higher to the east of the eye, due to the wind circulation pattern. The barometric pressure is less within the eye, but the wind on the northeast quadrant pushes the water also.

Therefore, when the eye passes just to the west of NOLA, as Gustav 08 is predicted to do, there could be a significant storm surge in NOLA.

A lot of things impact the storm surge, including the water channels among low-lying areas, and large lakes.

We will know within the next 24 to 36 hours.

P Ray   September 1st, 2008 12:04 am ET

I have the solution for all of New Orleans storm problems!

Just tear down the levees and let mother nature return it to its natural state.
It is so stupid to build a city 6-12 feet below sea level and I am tired of paying to rebuild it.

Susan   September 1st, 2008 12:11 am ET

“If the existing barrier islands were a little higher and wider, it could knock two to three feet off the storm surge. It would have been about a $200 million dollar project, it could have been finished by now,” he said.

That's less than we spend per DAY in Iraq!

How about we spend some of our tax dollars helping ourselves?!

Tom   September 1st, 2008 12:18 am ET

You don't like the pace that the rebuilding was done at, look no further than Congress (which has been controlled by Dems for the past 2 years). They are the source of the rules and regulations that prevent anything from happening in any sort of timely manner.

Also- rebuilding infrastructure is the STATE'S responsibility, not the Federal Government's. If you do want to try to blame the Feds, then Congress would again be the place to lay your blame (and who is it controlled by, again). Liberals sound so stupid when they try to blame Bush for every problem, especially ones that are created by Congress, though far be it from me to expect a lib to be educated about how government works (his term will end in January- most people would have gotten over it by now).

Last- for all you global warming believers out there: explain how the average temperatures have been DROPPING over the last 8 years, and the temperatures of the other planets have been rising and falling at the same rate as Earth's. Has our pollution become bad that we're now destroying other planets?

Karma   September 1st, 2008 12:19 am ET

What will it take for them to fix the problem? Political will or gas at $10 a gallon? Some nut said "god" is sending us a storm so they have to accept it" "god"? What a nutty world this is to believe is an invisible deity like Zeus or Apollo.

Thomas Simon   September 1st, 2008 12:23 am ET

I think what we all need to do is pray for the people that is affected by this whole storm system (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and the USA). The first predictions did not come from the scientists, it came from the Word of God! If we would only take heed for He is letting us know that HE IS STILL IN CHARGE!

Keith   September 1st, 2008 12:30 am ET

Infrastructure does not vote therefore it has no voice in the various political bodies. Wefare does vote so the money goes there instead.

Badtux   September 1st, 2008 12:38 am ET

For the guy who says, "rebuild New Orleans on higher ground" - uhm, New Orleans *is* the highest ground on the lower Mississippi River. Below New Orleans the ground is even lower, above New Orleans it's also lower. It is not until you get to Baton Rouge that you get real high ground along the Mississippi River, but the river is flowing too fast up there for ocean-going ships to get there.

Any nation needs a port at the mouth of its greatest river in order to transship goods off of ocean-going cargo ships and river-going barges. Unfortunately, nature dealt a bum rap to the United States and made the only feasible port site be, well, New Orleans.

Stu   September 1st, 2008 12:42 am ET

David K, you're a walking contradiction.

Daniel   September 1st, 2008 12:42 am ET

For many years the US politicians and leadership has cared more about the "war on terror" than they have the American infrastructure.

levee   September 1st, 2008 12:54 am ET

keep your cameras on the levee protecting the 9th ward. the silty soil used to fix the levee will erode quickly.

CJ   September 1st, 2008 1:14 am ET

Who is the anchor on CNN right now? Is there no on elese on a Sunday night that cover the news? He has no idea of what he is talking about. Lake Pontchartrain is a shallow lake that is not "calm" by any means, in fact it is readily turned up by the wind.
CNN, you suck on facts and coverage, this is a majpr news event and you have a half-rate hack as an anchor......

I'm supposed to trust CNN for news, maybe not.

Ross Nicholson   September 1st, 2008 1:20 am ET

Spilling a few hundred gallons of Wesson oil under the Gustav's eye would also lower the storm surge about 3 feet. Ben Franklin's discovery, the oil spreads quickly across the water reducing wind/water friction and thereby increasing the air pressure in the eye lowering the water pulled up. Sending a sub under the storm wouldn't cost 300 million dollars either.

shep   September 1st, 2008 1:47 am ET

Are you all nut cases? Why in the world, with all the barking about global warming and rising seas, would any sane population live in a city at the mouth of the world's second largest river?!

Much of the town is below water level! HELLO? Is anyone home!! Move out and stay out! The areas that need a levee need to go back to the river and move up state.

It's completely nuts to read these conversations about saving something that shouldn't be saved! Take the money you'd spend on the levees and build everyone in the flood plane a new house on higher ground- now that is money better spent. Ignore the academics, they have no more sense then the yo-yos in Washington!

Mark Fahey   September 1st, 2008 1:48 am ET

As has been stated so well in other comments. We stand at the cross roads. We can either use our intelligence to save ourselves or we can blame it all on superstition and fear and our own supposed sins and ultimately create a very difficult future for mankind.
It is far time we elect WELL educated leaders who understand the need for science. We had a president who challenged us to go to the moon, we had the scientists and the WILL and we did it! Today scientists are afraid to speak the truth, for fear a religious group rallies and takes away funding (maybe for a project that could save millions). With the help of the corporate media we have become a nation of dumbed down consumers, aghast and dismayed every time natural scientific events eclipse our rose colored vision. Please let us all really take a hard look at this election and let us find the national courage to make a change towards intelligent government officials that work for the people and not BIG OIL.

John   September 1st, 2008 1:49 am ET

Every president for the last 40 years has systematically ignored the cause of the problem. Every politician believes that they can slap a band-aid on the problem and fix the symptom, but not the disease. The only thing the gov't is good for is writing checks to "victims." They always fail to write checks to "scientists" and "engineers" who can fix the problem. This is not a partisan issue. Neither Bush nor Gore nor Kerry nor Obama nor McCain nor Clinton nor any other president or candidate would have changed a thing. The problem can be solved, we just need the windbags out of Washington and we need to elect someone who doesn't believe that we're REALLY THIS STUPID. Forget the parties. Vote Independent.

bob   September 1st, 2008 2:00 am ET

It would be cheaper to just give everyone in NOLA a bus ticket to someplace that is not in a hurricane zone AND under sea level. Rebuilding this place is just STUPID.

Texrat   September 1st, 2008 2:05 am ET

David K, you don't have your facts straight.

The federal government has to take the largest share of blame for Katrina. It is The FEDERAL Army Corps of Engineers that is responsible for levees, and they admitted the fault was theirs. In addition, the Fed sucks up state taxes and then uses pork projects to dole it back– however, funds to rebuild the levees were diverted for a pointless WAR.

State and local have their share of blame for poor handling of the disaster, but the big buck stops at the White House.

And don't so quickly dismiss professor van Heerden. He's doing HIS part.

gas   September 1st, 2008 2:06 am ET

The city of New Orleans should have been moved to someplace above sea level. Am we to pay our tax dollars to rebuild it once again, when rebuilding in the same soup bowl is demonstrably foolhardy?!

Better levees are not the answer, and better barrier islands are not the answer. On average, New Orleans has been flooded every 11 years since the 1700s. We need to wake up and just say "no" to rebuilding in the same place.

The real suckers are the American taxpayers.

semp   September 1st, 2008 2:33 am ET

key point! NOLA is a coastal city "below sea level" ... it will be devastated time and time and ... time again. Take the culture, food and music and MOVE!

Mike g   September 1st, 2008 2:43 am ET

The city of new orleans has been flooded 27 times in its history and it keeps getting rebuilt. I see a flat learning curve here.

Eric, CT   September 1st, 2008 2:54 am ET

We gotta abandon this below sea water level city and offer to resettle any citizen who would elect to leave. Those who choose to stay and take thier chances, so be it.

jpinter   September 1st, 2008 2:54 am ET

I don't think this time people are going to open up their pocket book for the second time. New Orleans should not be rebuilt, regardless of the levees or the barriers. It's located in the Gulf and it's below sea level. PERIOD. Nagin is a cartoon and shame on anyone who voted him back in. Just because he screams injustice, doesn't mean he did anything for you.

Heavy D   September 1st, 2008 3:00 am ET

S Callahan

It has nothing to do with it. Are you serious?

It hasn't fired yet

Karen   September 1st, 2008 3:08 am ET

George Bush's administration has suppressed scientific reports, has directed former oil executives to edit environmental reports, wouldn't allow the press to release photos of coffins containing the bodies of soldiers killed in Iraq returning home as not to alarm Americans. And three years ago this weekend they (Bush admin.) went on the long holiday weekend without a thought to the people in New Orleans, because, surely, 'someone' would take care of that situation.

And these are the least of their sins. The ones committed with criminal intent haven't even been mentioned, i.e. conspiracy to steal the 2000 election with the INTENT of invading Iraq, not just for the oil, but largely for the billions in unaccounted funds for no bid contracts to hundreds of contractors, illegal wiretaps that could be used against anyone, including competitors of Halliburton, KBR, et al.

And then there was the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA Operations Officer whose specialty was actually WMD. Not only was she outed, but so were the unknown numbers of other agents who shared her cover, some of whom may have died because of Bush/Cheney's spite. Not only should Bush have been impeached, he should, and could, be tried for treason. Bush and Cheney make Nixon look like an amateur.

Franko   September 1st, 2008 3:10 am ET

Graphic of wind speed, higher to the right. (counterclockwise plus speed)
Maximum, right of the hurricane eye. Now, looking for swell graphic.

Env Eng   September 1st, 2008 3:14 am ET

THE question seems to be - how many wakeup calls does it take for those that make decisions to get the point? And worse yet, how many lives have to be lost before the powers that be take notice? 1,000? 10,000? Referencing Katrina, you can bet if those numbers heavily included government officials, their family members, or any wealthy constituents that support them, they'd take action in no time. As an environmental engineer who's worked mostly for the private sector, but now works in the public sector, if they operate as SLOWLY as they do out here in California, well..... I've heard the Professor before - I only hope someone in the Federal, State, Local government listens to him. If the town floods, please forgive me for being so "hard", but why build again in the same area? (I admit the same logic applies to rebuilding here in earthquake country in Ca.) I know Cities need the tax revenue, if the City collects such revenue, I may be way off base, but If the City of New Orleans Building and Safety & Planning Depts. issues PERMITS to builders or owners to re-build on the same flooded areas again and again, then shame on them!

M. Williamson   September 1st, 2008 4:23 am ET

If Hurricane Katrina was a wake up call for the government, they rolled over & hit the snooze button. Professor van Heerden has been ringing the bell and sounding the alarm, but significant changes have yet to be made. It's a tragedy upon a tragedy.

name   September 1st, 2008 4:46 am ET

“Who is going to suffer? Not the decision-makers. It is the poor Louisianans".

Shouln't that be the irrsponsible Louisianans who choose to build their homes and live below sea level and so close to seashore not "the poor Louisianans". All Americans will suffer with higer insurance premiums because of these irrsponsible few who insist on living below sea level and making a whole lot of noise that Federal Government and other people do not do enough for them. It is about time to tell these lazy (I did not name it bif easy) irrsponsible Louisianans to find land above sea level or grow gills.

edna calumpong   September 1st, 2008 5:14 am ET

What can you say the President is interested in playing war than making his people safe. This what he meant making America safe.

Jack L. Crain   September 1st, 2008 5:15 am ET

As an old person and a resident of the New Orleans area I have lived through four major hurricanes in my life. Betsy was the first, in the 1960s. It was a bad storm and did a lot of damage but, the barrier islands were still in place at the time and the devestation was not nearly as bad as it would be today. That storm and the ones that followed damaged the barrier islands and continuous oil drilling in the salt marshes along the coast where oil companies cut canals through the marshes has left the natural protections that once blunted the force of such storms almost non-existant. As a result the oil platforms, McCain's answer to our dependence on foriegn oil, is in constant jeapordy and the once famous fishing industry of southeast Louisiana is all but gone.

John Doe   September 1st, 2008 6:03 am ET

The U.S has long ago lost its ability to plan for anything and do anything about crumbling infrastructure. We will stand by and watch it all crumble and bicker about inconsequential things – just like the romans did on the streets as their empire went away, one piece at a time!

Charles Mitche   September 1st, 2008 6:03 am ET

How about this theroy: God does not like all the sinning in until the city gets right..and on the right path to clean living,,then expect more of this. The USA also better wake up...and repent!

K. Sanderz   September 1st, 2008 6:25 am ET

"Geology wins, Louisiana gains a delta"...

That'll be the headline, when the 1000 year flood and the cat 5 hurrican hit simulaneously at some time in the future: all the levees will be destroyed, and the Mississippi river will jump banks to lower ground, New Orleans scrubbed off the map.

This is inevitable, and all the whining about the barrier islands, and loss of land, the dropping below sea level are all due to man's insistence on living and altering a naturally occuring deltaic system.

By building levee's and channelling sediment out to the Gulf of Mexico, man is destroying the delta by stopping floods, and starving the delta of sediments that would come with the floods. In a delta, floods are good.

As far as I am concerned, New Orleans is as good as lost, and might be better if we just gave up on it..

I for one, am not interested in having my tax dollars going to a lost cause. Just move Nawlins to high ground, and let the jazz play on...

Dominic   September 1st, 2008 6:30 am ET

what you all fail to see is that the end is coming
nation will rise against nation and man will destroy man

so adios all

Russell Hulbert   September 1st, 2008 6:31 am ET

Let New Orleans go the way of the lost city of Atlantis! How many more billions of our dollars have to be flushed down that toilet bowl and into the pockets of their corrupt politicians? Enough is enough! Good riddance Big Easy! Let them keep a tiny island in the marsh and call it Bourbon Street for memories but the rest can just disappear.

Larry - American overseas   September 1st, 2008 6:33 am ET

First, New Orleans is in a terrible geographic location. If you locate on the coast (under sea level), then it should be no great surprise when water comes inland. And the government is not responsible for keeping it from you, or obligated for bailing you out when it comes. That said, human compassion does require us to want to do something to prevent and minimize such tragic and unnecessary loss.

I question (since I have not heard anything) what has Professor van Heerden been doing for the last three years. Do we only hear from him when a storm/hurrican is approaching or has he been actively "shouting" from the rooftops all of this time?

Second, it would seem to me that there are reasonable limitations of what can, or should be done. My home in the US is near Cedar Rapids, IA. A number of people ripped into the Army Corps of Engineers because they only designed some of the levees to withstand 30, 50, or 100 year floods. The same people wondered why the levees "failed" when breached by a 500-year flood. The levees did not fail; the determination had been made that it was unwise use of monies to provide levees that were to protect in all circumstances. In the same way, I understand that the NOLA levees are only designed for a Category 3 hurricane at best - let us not expect them to stop everything. That is where personal responsibility for choosing to live in New Orleans should have some consequences.

Roger Ramjet   September 1st, 2008 6:48 am ET

George wrote: If it takes and “act of God” to get a Democrat into the White House, then I say “so be it!!!”

Well we had Bill and Hill in DC for eight years – what's your point?
Plenty of storms during their time in office.

I am sure the professor is correct on many of these items, but LA and New Orleans have been in a Democratic lock box for decades, so don't think it's just a Republican issue. It's the fault of both parties.

Tim   September 1st, 2008 7:15 am ET

Here we sit and read this story and again see the failures of government and yet we do nothing. We still elect the same people. Democrats and Republicans a like. We, the citizens of America are to blame for all of our problems when it comes to government failing. We bring sweeping change into Congress yet within 18 months over 75% of us disapprove of their job ability. And do you know what will happen in November? We'll elect the same people to Congress and 18 months later again complain about them. These thieves in government steal our money, our tax dollars, and yet they leave us to drown from natural disasters that we could clearly be better prepared for. We are to blame, for doing nothing.

RCT   September 1st, 2008 7:27 am ET

This is a complicated issue whose solution requires an understanding of the scientific principles involved, a knowledge of economics, and the ability to negotiate with Congress and major oil companies that have interests in the Gulf.

Let’s call in Sarah Palin!

Rocky   September 1st, 2008 7:40 am ET

It's unfortunate but Congress would rather spend money on pork barrel projects than on projects that would save lives. I think the real question is with the predicted rise in sea levels and the fact New Orleans is slowly sinking can anything be done to fix this problem or is all this a huge waste of money and resources.

S Callahan   September 1st, 2008 7:46 am ET

Nicely said Roger...

Steve   September 1st, 2008 8:02 am ET

Large sections of New Orleans were built in areas that should never have been developed and should not be redeveloped now. How many storms will it take before some people get the message? Why should the rest of the country have to bail out the city every time another disaster occurs? The same applies to major river drainages throughout the country. Those who build in the traditional flood plains should be on their own. The Army Corps of Engineers should restore the New Orleans wetlands that were destroyed in order "to make progress." The shrimping industry and marine life generally would benefit from the restoration.

Allen   September 1st, 2008 8:02 am ET

Living BELOW SEA LEVEL is as bad as building a house on sand. God is going to reclaim that area. It's part of CREATION which is still going on. No amount of monitary input for levees, rebuilding barrier islands id going to help. GIVE UP SIN CITY and let GOD recreate it. AMEN.

Mary   September 1st, 2008 8:12 am ET

If Obama were in office now, he would probably be trying to negotiate with the hurricane to get it to not hit. New Orleans has been under Democratic leadership for the last 60 years so why haven't they done something? Why didn't they get all the money they needed under Clinton and Gore (both democrats). Most people including me have been predicting a catastrophic event if a major hurricane hit New Orleans for many years, this is not news people. LSU professor has a 50% chance of getting his views heard, if he says something negative. Negative gets in the news. It is NOT the federal government that should be spending BILLIONS of dollars for stupid levees. New Orleans needs to go the way of the dodo bird, it should never have been built.

Chun   September 1st, 2008 8:12 am ET

If Kerry was the president, this would not have happen. If Obama become president, this kind of hurrican will not happen again.

T. Gould   September 1st, 2008 8:18 am ET

The most celebrated efforts to hold back the sea are found in the Netherlands. When the Dutch look at the evidence for climate change and the resulting rise in sea levels, they don't see voodoo science or fuzzy math. They don't debate endlessly who is to blame and who should pay for the changes that must happen in order to avoid disaster. Nor do they fruitlessly try to hold on to a way of life that cannot endure the changes they see coming. Instead, they cast off the old ways of thinking and embrace the unthinkable. They will allow the sea to reclaim some of the land and use controled flooding to relieve pressures on the rest of their system. We divided Americans on the other hand will point fingers and debate this issue until ocean levels rise, flood our coastal cities and end the debate once and for all.

Camille   September 1st, 2008 8:33 am ET

I'm pretty sure Camille was the first good indicator that this is not a good area to live in...but history will repeat itself. James from Sunnyvale is on the right track

alan   September 1st, 2008 8:40 am ET

James wrote:

Seatbelts? That would put GM out of business!
Fossil fuel running out? OMG, WE NEED TO DRILL FASTER
Global warming? That’s a myth.
Evolution? A bunch of hoo-haw.
Stem cell research? Can’t go there…
Hurricanes? Who could have predicted that?
ad nauseum…

James, you need to check your facts

Democrats controlled Congress, Senate and the White House when seat belts became mandatory and the narrow margins were a result of Democratic actions.

Nixon was in office during the 70's gas crisis, but again, the Senate and Congress were controlled by Democrats. The clean air act that required a 90% reduction in car emissions by 1975 was enacted in Nixon's era, the biggest opponent, the staunch Democrat William Fulbright.

Both Bush (Sr.) and Reagan dealt with mostly Democratic controlled Houses and Democratic controlled Senates for half their combined presidency's.

George W, as you speak of Hurricane preparation has had to deal with declining Republican strenth in the House and Senate, especially in the past two years where the inaction on hurricanes has occurred.

Stop propagating the Democratic myths and face the facts, the Democrats are interested more in tax and spend social programs that extend the Great Society approach, which Roosevelt regretted implementing due to the lack of sunset provisions leading to our current welfare state and expectation of many Americans to just have things handed to them.

Virtually every recession and depression has started in a Democratic controlled presidency and Congress. In fact the most recent recession (ok they don't yet want to call it a recession) started after Republicans lost control of Congress. And for those who continually blame the DotCom burst and stock market slide in the early part of the Millenium on George W. Bush – this first started in the Summer of 1999 and continued through 2000. GW was elected in Nov. 2000 and didn't take office until 2001. It was Mr. Clinton's office when the damage was done.

I won't dispute a bias against stem cell research by Republicans nor do I agree with their opposition. Global Warming on the other hand has yet to be proven to be anything but cyclical in nature and that cyclic nature is readily supported by science and the study of fossils and geology. That however is not yet proven, but 30 years of measurements is insignificant in the eons of history of Earth.

Facts, not hyperbole are needed.

Big Bill   September 1st, 2008 8:50 am ET

Protect the barrier islands, protect the wetlands. That is not important. What we need to do is protect marriage. Get with the program!

John   September 1st, 2008 8:55 am ET

We should NOT be spending money trying to save property that was intentionally built below sea level. If you want to put your house or business below sea level in a hurricane area, then you're on the hook for any damages, NOT me or my taxes.

I'm all for spending money on disaster relief when the disaster is something no one could have expected, or highly unusual. I am against spending money on disaster relief in cases where anyone with half a brain can see that a disaster is due at any time.

That goes for hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, and everything else. Build your houses and skyscrapers somewhere safe, then come talk to me about taking my tax money to fix them.

Mike   September 1st, 2008 8:55 am ET

Yet another example of the incompetence, theft of public funds, use of lies about Iraq / Afghanistan / Bin Laden to start a war, and lack of accurate knowledge by BUSH and his oil industry cronies.

They refuse to use science to solve problems, instead relying on religion, god, creationism, prayer and other such drivel. They say global warming is a myth, yet they believe in a fantasy called religion. They think "abstinence" will cure AIDS.

"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
- Thomas Jefferson

Tom   September 1st, 2008 9:23 am ET

1) Living below sea level is a risk.
2) When you build a dam for a recreational lake that could itself flood the entire city your at risk. (Especially when you call it a dike.)
3) Unless the local government (elected by guess what, locals) attempts to get things rolling with improving and restoring, they can never get the federal funding.

P Welcher   September 1st, 2008 9:23 am ET

Rebuilding in New Orleans is classic "US has tons of money" foolishness. We don't. We're poor and in debt to our eyeballs.

We need to focus our spending to maximize return, not rallying in favor of sentimental lost causes like Louisiana swampland. Buy up low-lying property / buy onwers out, and FORCE building someplace sensible or go unprotected. Shoring up dozens of levees and weak points is total foolishness: people shouldn't be living there, end of story. I don't like the government bossing people around. It can however create strong incentives for people to put their re-building money and effort where there's some sense to it.

LA MAN from overseas   September 1st, 2008 9:38 am ET

Just to say "rebuild the levees" isn't good enough. I was raised in Louisiana, and I can tell you that a lot of the levees in place now should never have been built in the first place, and would be better totally removed. We have people living in areas where people were never meant to live, and spend billions on keeping out the water and then rebuilding after the storms that will always be around.Restore the marshes and barrier islands? What most people don't understand is that the delta areas aren't just getting washed away because of canals, but that the area is sinking as it has through time. What used to happen was the delta would build up at the rivers mouth while other areas sank, then the rivers would shift course, build up new deltas and the old ones would sink. Restraining the rivers in the name of flood control has contributed more to the problem of coastal erosion that anything else.

Common Sense   September 1st, 2008 9:42 am ET

Common Sense,

For crying out loud MOVE! Dont live where you can die or be wiped out multiple times a year! HELLO?! its nature no matter what you do there will always be people who predict etc etc, the prof is intelligent, but come on you live 20 feet below sea level.

man o man.....

Anton A. Hill   September 1st, 2008 9:45 am ET

The problem with N.O is not that the "preparations were incomplete" or that it is full of "drug-crazed rapists" but that it exists at all. It's below sealevel in a Hurricane-prone area with the largest river in America flowing through it, thirty feet ABOVE it!
Billions in Federal aid prop it up because not to do so is considered racist. The French Quarter is marginally higher than the rest of the city and was a good place to live 200 years ago, before the US Army Corps of Engineers ensured that So. Louisiana sink into the Gulf of Mexico.
It is untenable as a place to live in the 21st century and should be abandoned.

David K   September 1st, 2008 9:54 am ET

1. Didn't dismiss the prof, simply stated his news is old news. So please don't make him out as some visionary.

2. Regarding the money. Yes the federal government has the dollars but also the fact that millions of dollars were allocated in the past for the levies but (and here it comes) the funds were diverted to other projects by the State legislature and Local governments. Money wasn't diverted for war it was diverted to the pork projects developed by the local government officials. So just because there is an unpopular president don't blame the Federal Government so heavily. Many times the federal government has the resources but is unable to respond without request for assistance from the State disaster authorities. During Katrina the State did not perform properly and the Federal disaster system was forced to adjust its response accordingly.

Besides the ultimate question is why do we as a nation spend our money rebuilding a city that is under sea level. New Orleans situation is extremely unique and bears serious consideration of alternatives to simply rebuilding.

My best to the city of New Orleans and I hope they come through ok but a money pit is a money pit no matter how big it is.

Jack Smith   September 1st, 2008 9:54 am ET

Actually, the entire US infrastructure is getting left behind. Bullet trains from Paris to Nice. New mega airport terminals in Beijing, Hong Kong. Even Prague's airport is more modern then most any in the US.

We dump a TRILLION dollars in Iraq, and are ignoring our own highways, airports, education, and yes, levees.

Time to get Bush & McBush out of office, end all the incessant wars paid for with credit, and start spending domestically, where it will actually do us some good.

Sacto Joe   September 1st, 2008 10:04 am ET

Look, it's common knowledge that this administration is anti-science and anti-environment. OF COURSE they're gonna fall down on issues like this!

And now they've got a Creationist running for VP! If by some stupidity they win, then this will be just the beginning of what will go wrong in this country.

ariveria   September 1st, 2008 10:10 am ET

It isnt a joke this is a message from God.

He supplied great weather for Obama to give his speach.

He has given us this hurricane to remind us of Republican screw ups.

God also gave us this hurricane to show once and for all that off shore drilling is not the answer.

Wake up America listen to God.

Richard   September 1st, 2008 10:12 am ET

I was born in Louisiana, but now live north East of Baytown Texas near the Trinity River. I could have purchased land about 1/2 mile down our road and gotten twice as much property for the same money that I paid. Difference being my land is the second highest in the area; land 1/2 mile down the road is almost 15 feet lower. Every time the Trinity floods, most of that lower property goes under. During tropical storm Allison, we got 19 inches of rain in 11 hours and did not flood. If we claimed three flood damages to our home the federal flood insurance would give us the choice of either forced buy out or dropped insurance. Yet, New Orleans can be rebuilt time after time after etc. Most all of which uses the tax dollars from people across the country who are smart enough NOT to build their own homes in a extreme flood zone. Even Galveston was intelligent enough to raise the entire island by a few feet to help prevent flooding, but does New Orleans? No, they just expect the rest of the country to come to their rescue time and again. The loss of coastline and barrier islands is not unique to the Gulf Coast Louisiana folks, it is happening to every land mass exposed to the surf and will keep happening until we either have a massive geological upheaval or the ocean covers the world. Yes we can slow it and should but we aren’t going to stop it. Build your house on gulf coast sand and it will disappear.

Julie   September 1st, 2008 10:17 am ET

These postings clarify exactly what is wrong with this country, regardless of Democrat or Rupublican affiliation....finger pointing. If everyone would stop the blame game, shut up and get down to business it would be done by now.

It's like scolding a child for what they did wrong but not telling them how to do it right.

And while you all criticise the prof, imagine how frustrating it must be to have expert knowledge and no one will heed your warnings! What are you all doing today except adding to the problem by wasting everyones time? You certainly were not the ones who enlightened me.

Franko   September 1st, 2008 3:19 pm ET

No immediate vote gain for preventing future disasters.
Something like, Tomorrow newer comes. Vote loss, for crying wolf ?

Multilevel representative democracy, lack of threat understanding.
Reminds me of multilevel marketing, profit mostly at the top.

Victor Wolf   September 4th, 2008 3:14 pm ET

Four years of environmental science, combined with a legal assistant and journalism programs, followed by a doctorate in universal religious laws, built on this foundation, as quoted by Dr George W Carver, a man no mainstream educational institution will allow in the classroom:

"God is goint to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless. ...I indulge in very little lip service, but ask the Great Creator silently daily, and often many times per day to permit me to speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world, which He has created, viz – the animal, mineral and vegetable Kingdoms; their relations to each other, to us, our relations to them and the Great God who made all of us. I ask Him daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will, hence I am asking and receiving, all the time."

Before you turn aside from the Creator of the universe, read and study this man's lifetime of work, based faith in God and two degrees in Scientific Agriculture: Over three hundred uses for the peanut, over 118 uses for the sweet potato, over 60 for the pecan. Among his discoveries: peanut butter: mock meat: sauces, cosmetics, dyes, paints and stains: adhesives, paper, synthentic cotton and silk; wall board, synthetic marble, gasoline, diesel fuel. ...

Each in your own way search for some kind of harmony. Carver discovered and taught the harmony of science and religion and gave the world wonders. And science, breaking away from harmony, hid away his discoveries.

And what does this have to do with New Orleans? Science and religion, combined, teach one truth: The world is alive in its own way, and it Will seek homeostasis.

Franko   September 4th, 2008 10:06 pm ET

George Washington Carver, his Faith, Ideas, now in the Carver Museum.

Not around anymore to ask and see, what his fear or his desire, elicited Faith

Like the Axiom of choice, neither George Washington Carver or mathematics is the ultimate reality. Need to live, invent, in present, stand on the shoulders of the past.

Victor Wolf   September 5th, 2008 10:55 am ET

Franko, you are absolutely correct. We must stand on the shoulders of the past. But the scientific method can be applied to Carver's work, as it can to any aspect of religion, because religion is based on the universal law of individual action and Divine response. Religion requires the participation of the experimenter. One cannot discuss it and make any progress; one must choose to test religion by acting on what it promises.

You begin with the supposition that the Creator is Reality, and His representatives spoke the truth. In this aspect, the past is the present, because the Creator is the ever-present NOW. So, set forth the hypothesis: if you act a certain way, the Creator responds a certain way. Apply the scientific method and test. Record the result and test again. It is a personal journey.

Franko   September 5th, 2008 3:32 pm ET

"But the scientific method can be applied to Carver’s work"
Like a doctor, asking what hurts you, We cannot ask Carver ,What caused the perception sickness, Carver's Faith. Faith of the confused monkey, uncomfortable, eats, not the banana, but security.

Look: “What happens if you throw an elephant into a black hole?”
Perhaps Carver's secrets, duplicated, in a black hole, real reality, God's projection, even all black holes have common reality source ?. More fundamental than space time locality ?

"Apply the scientific method and test. Record the result and test again"
Old methods, Faiths can be simply just too stoopid, (athur miller definition – know incorrect but repeat the wrong (fear of punishment, mind in the survivor cricible, faith, the self, live on, but reality finally shhots you) Need new methods, theories, OojieFaithBoard has limitation, possibly, not Even Totally Wrong

Watch: Richard Feynman explains the feeling of confusion
Sometimes, we find the banana of reality ? BurpZilla, then confusion again ?

Victor Wolf   September 6th, 2008 12:05 pm ET

Franko, come back. You refuse to do what a scientist would do, if the scientist is interested in helping to correct something out of order. Edison did not deal with "black holes", he asked "what if..."

Carver's record carries his life in his productive results. Come back and turn your attention to the reality carved out of ignorance by the successful scientists.

Franko   September 6th, 2008 4:49 pm ET

"You refuse to do what a scientist would do"
You are doing an illogicallity, appeal to authority.

"if the scientist is interested in helping to correct something out of order"
The old faith, not this time working, new hypothesis, to get the higher banana

"Edison did not deal with “black holes”, he asked “what if…”"
Desired the imagined banana, the light to keep people up at night, since he did not sleep a lot, tried various means, black holes not in his experimental toolbag, left the theory cleanup for future generations. Desire for a result, not ZombieSinFaithReligion inventor.

Carver, a Saint, in the hero meaning. The peanut butter, and other nuts, how good food, he understood. But I also test present reality, personally, is there a bad tasting bug in my walnut. Reality is more than all the Saints' combined past. Their useful guesses and assumptions, into the me incorporated, others, not present approved, spit out, as the bad tasting walnut.

Laplace was asked by Napoleon, how God fitted into this system, he replied, 'Sire, I have not needed that hypothesis.' Somehow, your need blocks your seeing. See the need of the Victor Wolf. Try it. What happens ?

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"
Physical continuity, protection. But protecting you, the faith ? Allah will the 72 virgin reward the suicide faith bomber..

Victor Wolf   September 8th, 2008 9:05 am ET

Franko, comes a time when the silence must be established. Science is precise. Philosophy is a circle of educated personal opinion, leading nowhere. Sciences that begin and end in words generally prove to possess little value.

I have no need, as you define it. My need, my certitude, my conviction, has been met and established. The scientific principle incorporated into religion works for me, as it does for anyone who applies the rules for living the plan the Creator has designed.

Joy, peace and love are the produce. May your inquiring mind lead you to the light.

Bart   September 12th, 2008 6:18 pm ET

The US often asks Western Europe to beef up it's military defenses. Here's how I look at this: you can choose to defend your country with military means against probable threats. You can alss choose to defend your country against the sea and mother nature. For the Netherlands, the latter was a bigger problem. While the US has a mighty army, several cities might be disappear from the map by the sea, not by a military attack, while the Netherlands a.k.a. Holland is protected for everything except a storm that would come once in 10,000 years. By contrast, New Orleans is protected to a level of flooding once in 30 years. Meaning, every 30 years a storm would come along that could flood the city. Protecting New Orleans, Texas, and Alabama is a matter of political will, priorities and money. The US army can't stop Ike coming ashore. Meanwhile: Dutch vessels and engineers are standing by, advicing the US army corps of engineers and building defenses... but.. not enough money and political will to beef up the coastal defenses.

Franko   September 12th, 2008 11:30 pm ET

Like the Commie Empire, US military shell, still strong, at the collapse.
Rule by and for the needs of those on top, reinforcing the strong rotten egg smell

air jordan 5 pas cher   June 7th, 2012 4:11 am ET

Sneaker News is your complete source for Air Jordans. Click in for for more info on Air Jordans including release dates, prices & purchase info.air jordan 5 pas cher

Self Storage   July 30th, 2012 8:04 am ET

obviously like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP